I often get asked how, and why, I started writing: plus numerous other questions that I’ll assume most authors get asked the world over. So, below are some of those questions and answers that delve into my journey and how I turned an idea into a book.
If you have any questions then please do contact me as I am always happy to respond to genuine enquiries.
WHY DID I START WRITING?
After the band I was in disbanded I found I was bereft of a creative outlet: writing songs had been my muse for many years. I liked the short stories, even though I often wanted to write too much for a 3 or 4 minute song. What was I going to write about I had no clue, at the time. However, I was doing am-dram at a local theatre – Empire Theatre (sadly, it has been knocked down – the lengths people will go to, to stop me from treading the boards!!) and there I heard some of the ghost stories that were told about the place. This kind of got me thinking. Slowly an idea formed, using the theatre as the central part, plus an am-dram group. Ta-dah!
WHAT KEPT ME GOING?
I had a friend who was lodging with me at the time, and who was interested in my idea. So, working in a four-page format I would write a chapter and slide it underneath his bedroom door. Very often getting feedback on how the story was unfolding, which I have to say must have been very difficult to understand at times because as I have edited many of my first drafts I now know how mixed up they can be, often with sentences missing where my fingers did not keep up with my imagination. It was that positive feedback though, that kept me going.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
The finished article sat there, staring back at me asking – What next? What do I do with it? I knew nothing of publishing and this is where my journey really began. Luckily I knew a graphic designer – Trudi – and I gave her some title ideas, for other books I had percolating in my mind with the premiss for her to come up with a brand identity. Also, handily enough, the lead singer of my disbanded band was a typesetter – so my first book started to take shape.
HOW TO PUBLISH?
This was more tricky. Endless trawling of the internet provided various answers including, ISBN numbers, legal requirements of publishing using ISBN numbers, vanity press, printers. A minefield of decision and indecision.
I looked to vanity press to start with, as they seemed to offer a good deal with expertise to hand…but which one? I delved deeper and the more I delved the more I felt they were not right for me. I already had a cover design, a typesetter, but most importantly the cost seemed too high, as the retail price could be as high as £10 per book. When trying to compete in the book market where you can buy well known fiction for as little as £3 per book, why would someone pay £10, especially family and friends. One vanity press quoted G P Taylor as a director – I was impressed – but upon contacting him he denied it, he had spoken with them but was not a director of the company – that was correct at the time but may well have changed I cannot comment. I would only suggest checking out any claims you may see.
Mmmm, I was stuck. Where do you go? A-ha the internet the again. I found a few, eventually settling on a small family firm called Biddles (sadly swallowed up by a larger printer and eventually closed down). A few emails later I had selected paper, cover card, they provided the bar code for ISBN number, and size of book. Wow – I didn’t know there was so much choice. Now what, ah yes, money!
PAYING FOR IT!!
This is the real clincher for any would-be author. Putting your money where your writing is. You have to decide what works for you. At the time of SOULSHADOW I had just sold my flat and so had some spare cash I could utilise. That said it was a brave decision, as I decided on 1,000 copies to get the unit price down to a sensible figure – would I advise this – probably not. However, I felt reckless and was buzzing with enthusiasm so ploughed ahead.
This is not easy. Friends and family were keen to snap up a copy, and whilst that is appreciated it is hardly reaching a target audience. What works for one does not always work for another (I know, another cliché) I have done craft fairs, gift fairs, Christmas gift fairs, talks – although this is difficult if you work full time as they tend to have to be during the day – radio plugs, I have used twitter, and facebook. There is no quick solution, you have find your way, and get out and do something.
Three more books followed SOULSHADOW, they were USHERED, SHELOBOURNE & TOBY:THYME COTTAGE. My latest book STASIS has taken me over 6 years to complete. I still work full time. I have sold over 3,500 books, and SOULSHADOW has been re-edited and a second edition printed. I have ideas and drafts written for at least another 12 books, yet time is a struggle, I write as often as I can but my mind is awash with new ideas all the time, so I do get sidetracked.
You must enjoy what you do. Do it for you because you enjoy it. I read somewhere, once, that the top 5% of authors earn millions, whilst the other 95% survive on £11K per year. I hope you are luckier than I, and your first book gets you that publishing deal, or agent, and you make it. Ultimately I believe we’d all like to make a reasonable living from writing if we can – for some that may involve writing material you don’t necessarily want to – good luck to you. Me personally, I would rather write what I enjoy than material I have little interest in just to make a living.
PUBLISHERS AND/OR AGENTS?
I have tried with no success. If you can succeed and get either – fantastic, I wish you all the best – hopefully in time I will find mine but for now I will carry on the only way I know how, as I decided long ago that I didn’t want my manuscripts just sitting in a drawer waiting for that offer.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WRITE A BOOK?
How long is a piece of string? How big is your idea? STASIS has taken over 6 years. SHELBOURNE took on average 24 hours per chapter (72 chapters) over a course of two years. If you can set a certain amount of time aside each day, or plan to do a certain word count per day, then do it. Don’t do what I see some do which is try to perfect the first chapter – as normally that is as far as they ever get. Get the story down, wartz and all, everything else can be done in the second draft. I usually internet search information if I reach a certain point e.g. in REDSANDS I searched information on the Rainhill Trials.